The Environment Secretary Michael Gove has promised to offer “hundreds of millions” of pounds of funding to local authorities to boost recycling rates.
And, according to Mr Gove, this will be “harvested” from extended producer responsibility legislation initially set out in the Waste and Resources Strategy, published earlier this week (see letsrecycle.com story).
The Environment Secretary was quizzed during an Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) hearing yesterday (December 19), where many on the committee criticised the timeline of some of the proposed measures.
During the session, EAC chair, Labour MP Mary Creagh, asked why extended producer responsibility (EPR) measures could not be introduced sooner than the current timetable , and said that government action is needed as “the use of voluntary schemes has been shown to be failing”.
In response, Mr Gove said that while he “would like to see action faster”, consultations will be carried out to ensure business is ready and that the measures are rolled out correctly.
Mr Gove said: “We want to make sure we get policy right in all areas. We are seeking to ensure that, not just the Deposit Return Scheme [DRS}, but other things like the reform of EPR initiatives and also the greater degree of consistency, all come in together.”
He added: “Of course, I am someone who prefers to get a move on where possible but there need to ensure we have designed a scheme that appropriately works, and delivers what we need.
“In the strategy we’re looking at a number of streams where we are looking where to extend EPR to, and that is why we are consulting, and by ensuring we have full cost recovery, we are going further than EU legislation. “
Later on in the discussion, Mr Gove mentioned that the government is open to suggestions as to where EPR should be extended.
Ms Creagh said that the government should look to France, which has 19 EPR schemes, as an example for future legislation on the issue, “which has been pushed by the EU”.
The Environment Secretary pointed to stronger targets the UK has set in comparison to the EU, such as overall packaging targets, and that a ban on buds will come into place first in the UK.
However, Mrs Creagh dismissed this, saying “targets don’t mean anything as we are going to miss our 2020 recycling target, what money are you going to give to local authorities to meet this?”
In response, he said: “I think targets do mean a fair amount, as they are one of the ways to drive behaviour change. We will be making a significant sum available to local authorities in order to have greater constituency and this will be harvested from the EPR extension.”
When quizzed on amounts, Mr Gove added: “It will be hundreds of millions of pounds whenever they need it. We are always happy to help local government whenever they need it. Part of the programme of consolation is that if people feel we can have a higher level of ambition in any area, and if additional resources are needed we will look to do that.”
Below is a clip from the meeting, where Mr Gove makes the pledge.
Touching on food waste later on in the meeting, Labour MP for Bristol, Kerry McCarthy, who is also chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Food Waste, despite welcoming much of the content of the strategy, questioned why food waste should not be banned from landfill by 2030, rather than “eliminated”.
Mr Gove said he is “not averse” to further restrictions, adding that his government “has not done enough on food waste and needs to catch up”.
With regards to business and potential food waste audits, he said: “I don’t want to end-run the process and don’t want it to be the case where there is universal one size fits all process. It means that small food outlets find there is a requirement placed on them which is designed for larger outlets and makes life harder for them. I wouldn’t want to do that but I feel legislation needs to be placed on that area.”
He added that the government is introducing a £15 million fund to support retailers and other outlets to help excess food go to charities.